The Show Goes On

Flying Saucer

The raspberry tartlet ($9), while nearly as aesthetically striking as the cake extravaganza, wasn't as culinarily arresting. A square of shortbread, submerged in a bowl of coolly refreshing melon soup limned with kiwi shavings, supported a block of hard, tasteless berry sorbet, a tiny (and rather tough) tartlet strewn with fresh raspberries, and, resting atop, a spun-sugar cage filled with several more raspberries. The most successful of the desserts was the rich, moist, densely dreamy banana bread pudding ($9), a panoramic evocation of East Indian flavors. A dollop of pungently aromatic cardamom ice cream sat upon the pudding while a chocolate-candy cone filled with a rich custard sauce sprouted outward, a spun-sugar borsalino teetering on top; a chai-infused caramel sauce supported the whole subcontinental shebang, while vertical sentinels of banana policed the platter's rim.

Given the intricate, methodically detailed nature of pastry chef Roger Feely's creations, it's not surprising that the desserts take some time to arrive at table. (While you wait you're treated to a big burgundy glass overflowing with that most circuslike of confections: cotton candy.) Service in general ranges from the friendly and informative to the brusque and harried, with the venue's intensity and noise level rising as the evening progresses. The setting is as ornately theatrical as the food: boysenberry sorbet-colored walls, paintings out of several genres, scalloped accents, Grecian urns, the occasional Roman pillar, and, in the shadowy back room, Egyptian friezes, Etruscan objets d'art, and a massive bust of some ancient god presiding over it all. As befits the ambience, the music ranges from mariachi to funk to Tony Bennett, while the kitchen staff -- you can see them working away behind a glass partition -- whips up ever more vertical, ever more dazzling culinary creations, many of them welcomed into the dining room with gasps of awe and sprinkled applause.

California cuisine in all its push-the-envelope, narcissistic glory.
Anthony Pidgeon
California cuisine in all its push-the-envelope, narcissistic glory.

Details

1000 Guerrero (at 22nd Street), 641-9955. Dinner served Monday through Thursday 6 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. Reservations recommended. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 26 (1 block away). Noise level: intrusive.

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